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Image: www.thinkprogress.org

Image: www.thinkprogress.org

A new media release from colleagues at the NC Justice Center:

New report says quality caregiver wages are critical for quality care given to seniors
Fair wages for home care workers improve continuity of care and strengthen the local economy

Low wages for caregivers threaten the quality and consistency of in-home healthcare services provided to seniors, even as demand those services is expected grow exponentially due to the retirement of the baby boom generation according to a report released today. Recent cuts to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for caregiving have contributed to falling caregiver wages and must be addressed in order to ensure seniors receive quality care.

“Direct care occupations, including home care jobs, are some of the fastest growing occupations. But these jobs offer some of the lowest wages in the state,” writes Sabine Schoenbach, author of the report. “Low wages increase worker turnover, increase long-run costs for providers, and interrupt the continuity of care for consumers. Reimbursement by Medicaid programs, in large part, creates the framework in which employers set wages for direct care workers, and North Carolina’s reimbursement rates have been frozen or reduced since 2009 putting North Carolina $4 per hour lower than the national average rate paid to provider agencies.”

Key findings include:

  • North Carolina is rapidly aging – the population over 65 is projected to more than double by 2050. The aging of the state’s baby boomers will correspond with an increase in community members with functional and cognitive limitations, indicating a growing need for direct care that allows community members to continue to live with dignity.
  • Direct care occupations, including home care jobs, are some of the fastest growing occupations, as North Carolina rapidly ages. Read More
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As #WageWeek continues to celebrate local and state efforts to improve wages across the country, a growing campaign for quality wages for home healthcare workers and quality care for seniors launched in Raleigh on Monday at a Crucial Conversation event hosted by NC Policy Watch.

Workers, legislators, and advocates spoke movingly at the event about the crucial link between paying caregivers better wages and providing seniors with the stability in care they need to spend their lives in dignity.

At a time when our growing population of seniors is driving rapid growth in the number of workers providing their care, it is more important than ever to address the harsh reality that workers in caregiving occupations are among the lowest paid in our economy—earning on average $5 less an hour than workers in the overall economy.

Because these caregivers earn so little, they are forced to work second and third jobs just to make ends meet and afford the basics for their families. Balancing so many jobs with different hours often causes dramatic disruptions in their ability to provide continuous, stable care to the seniors who rely on them.

And as became clear over the course of the conversation, a big contributor to this problem involves the state’s Medicaid program, which reimburses seniors for long-term care and disability services. Medicaid largely sets the overall framework for private insurance reimbursements, and after years of budget cuts, North Carolina’s program now reimburses seniors $4 dollars an hour less than the national average.

A lower reimbursement rate for care means less money for the homecare employers arranging senior care, and even lower wages for the workers actually providing the care.

Something must be done to raise caregiver wages, and Monday’s conversation marked a good first step in raising awareness on this important issues.

Commentary

Caring for Caregivers: The importance of quality wages for ensuring quality care

Click here to register

Like the rest of the nation, North Carolina is quickly aging. Within 35 years, the population over age 65 is projected to more than double. There is a rapidly growing need for direct care to allow community members to continue living with dignity.

Rep. Yvonne HolleyUnfortunately, recruiting and retaining skilled people to do this work is increasingly difficult. Though it includes some of the state’s fastest growing occupations, direct-care work offers some of the lowest wages in the state. As a result, too many home-care workers don’t make enough to afford the basics like groceries, rent and transportation — leading to increased turnover of caregivers and disrupted care for seniors.

So what can be done? Are there public policy changes able to address these problems? And how can grassroots activists get involved?

Join us as we pose these and other questions to a panel of experts that includes state Rep. Yvonne Holley (pictured left) and Allan Freyer, director of the Workers’ Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center, as well as directly impacted community members.

The luncheon will also feature a video of remarks President Obama will deliver at the July 13 White House Conference on Aging.

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about this important and timely subject.

When: Monday, July 20, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.Thanks to a generous donor, this luncheon is free of charge. Please select the $0.00 event fee on the registration page before checkout.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary
Image: Citizens Against Ag-Gag Legislation Facebook page

Image: Citizens Against Ag-Gag Legislation Facebook page

[Update: The veto override motion on House Bill 405 passed the House today by a vote of 79-36 and the Senate by a vote of 32-15]. One of the most unfortunate developments at the North Carolina General Assembly in recent years has been the GOP majority’s affinity for shutting down debate. Though things have improved in the House somewhat since the departure of Thom Tillis, Republican leaders (many of whom complained mightily about the same practices while they were in the minority) have all too often turned to the cheap and lazy solution of limiting debate and public comment, pushing things through on voice votes (e.g. Senator Bob Rucho’s recently shameful performance) and/or using procedural bureaucracy to “table” amendments, rule them  “out of order” or to prevent them from even being offered in the first place.

Of course, the excuse that’s often advanced for the use of such tactics is that “everyone already knows how they’re going to vote” on XYZ bill and therefore, additional debate is just a “waste of time.”

If ever there was a bill that demonstrates the emptiness of such an excuse, however, it has to be the controversial “Ag gag” bill that Governor McCrory recently vetoed. When the measure first passed the House by a huge margin a few weeks ago during a rush of legislation, it received relatively little attention and was perceived as simply being about the issue of animal abuse. Since that time, however, things have changed — most notably that more and more people have actually read the proposal and begun to envision scenarios in which it would have a negative or even dangerous potential impact.

Now, today, as the House prepares to consider overriding the Governor’s veto, there is vastly more public attention and all sorts of problems that had not previously been considered are “on the table.” Moreover, numerous important groups that had simply missed the bill — from the AARP to disabled vets — are against it.

The veto may still be overridden and the proposal may well become law, but there can be little doubt that the state will be better off going forward for having had a much more thorough debate and for having a great deal more scrutiny on the issue.  Let’s hope fervently that the experieince teaches some important people a lesson about how democracy works best.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

Social SecurityAccording to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013 the percentage of older adults (65+) whose incomes fall below the federal poverty threshold is lower than it is for children and non-elderly adults. 1 in 10 (10% exactly) older adults in North Carolina lived in poverty in 2013, compared to 17.9% of the state’s population overall and 25.2% of children. The percentage of North Carolina’s older adults living in poverty in 2013 is one percentage point higher than it was in 2007 when the recession hit.

The reason for the comparatively low rate of poverty amongst older adults is plain and simple – Social Security. Established in 1935, this relatively simple and universal public program continues to accomplish its primary purpose of providing basic economic security for older Americans. Read More